100 Days to 100 Years
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Unexpected Ways Your Diet Is Aging You

An unhealthy diet can cause weight gain, but can it also shave years off of your life?

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By Taylor Lupo

It’s widely known that your diet can help or hurt your health. A trans fat-rich diet could up your stroke risk. Eating too much added sugar could increase your risk of dying from heart disease, whether you’re overweight or not. And a lesser-known effect of poor eating habits: aging. That’s right, your diet could make you feel (and look) older than you actually are.

Start your journey for a long, healthy life by first taking the RealAge Test, which measures the age of your body based on family history and lifestyle factors, like your diet. You’ll get personalized tips for lowering your RealAge, which might include avoiding these diet mistakes. 

You Don’t Drink Enough Water

2 / 6 You Don’t Drink Enough Water

The “right” amount of water varies from person-to-person, but the Institute of Medicine recommends American adults get between nine and thirteen glasses a day. If you skimp on your water intake then you risk dehydration, which can cause symptoms like dizziness, irritability and fatigue. Dehydration also ages the look of your skin. Dehydrated skin temporarily loses its elasticity, something we often see in older adults. While an extra glass of water won’t stave off wrinkles, it may increase skin density and thickness. 

Look and feel you own age by drinking more water throughout the day. A simple way to do this? Splurge on a cute water bottle or infuse your H2O with fresh fruit.

You Eat the Wrong Kinds of Fats

3 / 6 You Eat the Wrong Kinds of Fats

Our bodies need some fat to function properly, but it’s important to consume the right kinds. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in foods like salmon and avocado, may help lower bad cholesterol and are part of a healthy diet.

Trans and saturated fats increase bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. High cholesterol is a risk factor of heart disease, the leading cause of death among both American men and women. Excess bad fat can cause the arteries to narrow, which increases the risk of blood clots that might block the arteries, causing heart attack, stroke and premature death.

Aim to replace unhealthy fats with healthy choices like olive oil, canola oil and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Your Diet Is Over Processed

4 / 6 Your Diet Is Over Processed

Processed meats are convenient and tasty, but they may shave years off your life. Breakfast favorites, like bacon and sausage, may be responsible for an increased rate of death. The World Health Organization says processed meats, products treated for preservation or flavor, may be carcinogenic, which ups your risk for certain cancers.

Highly processed junk food and refined carbs may be stealing your youth, too. Refined carbs, like white bread and pasta, are associated with increased rates of heart disease, and one study suggests they may present a bigger risk for heart attack than saturated fats. Instead, build your meals with fresh produce, whole grains and plant-based proteins, like beans.

You Load Up on Sugar

5 / 6 You Load Up on Sugar

Loading up on too much added sugar can discolor your teeth and wrinkle your skin. Glycation, binding sugar to proteins, alters your body’s production and maintenance of collagen, the protein that keeps your skin looking young. As you age, collagen production slows, causing wrinkles, but excess sugar may age skin prematurely.

While there isn’t one food responsible for weight gain, too many high-cal sweets may lead to extra fat around your mid-section. Regardless of overall weight, excess stomach fat ups your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes—both of which may steal years from your life.    

Satiate a sweet tooth with a cup of mixed berries, or savor an ounce of dark chocolate. 

You Spend Too Much Time at Happy Hour

6 / 6 You Spend Too Much Time at Happy Hour

Studies suggest moderate alcohol consumption, one drink a day for women and two for men, may decrease risk of heart disease and boost longevity. But overdoing the daily cocktails may actually shorten your life.

Excess drinking can lead to cancer, liver damage and high blood pressure. Alcohol isn’t void of calories either, and your daily happy hour habits may be responsible for weight gain. While a few extra pounds seem innocent enough, overweight and obese individuals are at a higher risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Enjoy lighter versions of your favorite cocktails by swapping high-calorie mixers for club soda and fresh fruit. Or stick to wine, with only 125 calories per 5 ounce serving.

Learn more about the benefits of happy hour from Blue Zones, the world's healthiest communities.